29th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Yr C

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.”’

And the Lord said, ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’

Lk 18:1-8

The parable of the widow and the unjust judge is relatively unknown to most people. It is a parable that primarily reinforces the need for one to persevere in their prayer life and not to become disheartened but rather to maintain a steadfast view that God will always respond to our needs, but in his time not our own.

The judge, whose reputation preceded him, had “neither fear of God nor respect for man” and thus he was incapable of dispensing justice. This is revealed in his indifference to the suffering of the widow. This is a violation of the Torah which obliges one to help those who are less fortunate (Deut 10:18, 26:12-13). The widow, a common figure in the Scriptures, epitomizes what it means to be less fortunate. At the time of Jesus widows were often powerless and vulnerable and many only survived because of support received from friends and relatives. Exacerbating the plight of their social circumstances was that widows were not permitted to speak on their own behalf or to publicly seek help. They were without a voice, expected to suffer in silence.

Like so many other figures from the parables this widow is counter-cultural, breaking the social impositions that were placed upon her. Not only did the widow want for justice, she was insistent in her demands for such. This persistence, labelled “pestering” by the judge, eventually moves him from indifference to action. Just as the widow was insistent in her pleas for justice, we too should persevere in our petitions to God through prayer. But unlike the unjust judge who was slow to compassion, “the Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalms 145:8).

Anthony Cleary
Director, Mission & Identity